4th holiday Calls For Cautious Celebrating
West Trenton - The Independence Day is always a big holiday weekend in New Jersey, but too often it’s also big on accidents. The New Jersey State Police are advising the public to be alert to the dangers on the roadways and waterways, and with illegal fireworks to make this a safe holiday weekend. The 2008 July 4th holiday officially begins Thursday, July 3rd at 6:00 p.m. and continues through Monday, July 7th at 6:00 a.m.
Fireworks accidents are a consistent supplier of emergency room patients around the Fourth of July holiday, and the vast majority of those injuries are due to illegal fireworks. Even fireworks as seemingly innocuous as the firecracker cause numerous eye and ear injuries.
It is, of course, unlawful for any person to offer for sale, sell, possess or use fireworks in New Jersey without a valid permit. As was the case last year, the New Jersey State Police are running details on both sides of the Delaware River to arrest Jersey residents intent on bringing illegal fireworks home from Pennsylvania. Possession of illegal fireworks is a petty disorderly persons offense, whereas possession with intent to sell is a fourth degree crime. In any given year, the State Police confiscate between 500 and 1,000 cases of illegal fireworks or approximately six to eight tons of illegal explosives.
In June 2006, the state brought suit against four Pennsylvania-based fireworks retailers – Keystone Fireworks, Phantom Fireworks, Spartan Fireworks and Sky King Fireworks – among other things, due to their marketing of fireworks to New Jersey consumers. These actions were settled last year, with the retailers agreeing, among other things, to include within their advertisements, websites, direct mail brochures outdoor billboards and in-store signage the following statement: “New Jersey law prohibits the transportation, sale, possession or use of Fireworks in New Jersey without a valid permit.”
The Independence Day weekend ranks second only to Labor Day in the number of traffic deaths per day during the holiday period. Over the past five years in New Jersey, 3.22 people die per day during the July 4th holiday period. So far in 2008, (Jan. 1 thru June 21, 2008), 252 people have died on New Jersey roadways. As tragic as that is, the number is 71 less, or 22% lower than that same time period in 2007, and 95 less than 2006. Fifty-nine of this year’s deaths were pedestrians.
As with all holiday weekends, there will be extra state troopers and municipal police on the roads to handle the extra traffic volume. Many of these patrols will be dedicated to searching for those exhibiting behaviors of aggressive, intoxicated or drowsy drivers. Motorists should remember that New Jersey laws allow police to stop and ticket drivers for using handheld electronics such as mobile phones, or for failing to buckle up.
Although overall fatal crashes are down, motorcycle fatal crashes remain steady. With gas prices near all-time highs, more motorists have opted for motorcycles as their vehicle of choice. According to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, there are over 31,000 more people with motorcycle licenses now than this time last year. With all those inexperienced cyclists on Jersey roads, it’s not surprising that we are not seeing a commensurate decrease in fatal motorcycle crashes this year.
So far in 2008, New Jersey has lost 31 cycle riders. State police are checking all cycle drivers stopped for violations to ensure they have the proper license endorsement and a legal, DOT-approved helmet.
The New Jersey State Police Marine Bureau will be working jointly through the holiday period with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to help protect the ports and docks from all kinds of threats including possible waterborne terrorist attacks. Federal customs agents will be riding on New Jersey State Police boats patrolling the waters in the Port of New York and New Jersey and the Hudson River harbour region. The federal agents will conduct checks and enforce federal regulations that extend beyond the scope of the work that troopers normally do. The agents will also be conducting radiation detection and will be equipped with advance detection equipment.
Marine Bureau troopers will be patrolling all the waterways throughout the summer boating season. Enforcement activities will focus on intoxicated boat operators and persons recklessly operating personal watercraft (jet skis) and other powered vessels.
New Jersey boating laws require that all personal watercraft operators be at least 16 years of age, and have in their possession, a New Jersey boating safety certificate. Additionally, individuals who operate power vessels on non-tidal waters within the State are required to have in their possession, a New Jersey boat operator’s license. The boat operator’s license must be carried in addition to the boating safety certificate on non-tidal waters. A power vessel operator who fails to acquire a boating safety certificate or a boat operator’s license may be subject to a fine of up to $500 per violation.
Individuals, who are convicted of operating a vessel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or of allowing another person to operate a vessel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, will be subject to monetary fines, suspension of boating privilege, suspension of motor vehicle (drivers) license, and possible imprisonment.
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